Open Access gains critical mass with two new petitions

Two recently launched petitions have called attention to important issues in scholarly publishing: cost and access.

The Cost of Knowledge petition, sparked by a frustrated mathematician’s blog post, was launched earlier this year to call attention to what researchers believe are unfair and opaque journal pricing practices, as well as support for American anti-Open Access (OA) legislation by the Dutch publisher, Elsevier. The petition, which now has nearly 12,000 signatories, allows supporters to indicate their discipline, institutional affiliation, and whether they plan to boycott Elsevier by refusing to publish in, referee for, or do editorial work for their journals.

While many laud the petition as an example of effective grassroots organizing that led Elsevier to withdraw support for the Research Works Act (a response much appreciated by librarians), critics of the boycott have pointed out that singling out Elsevier is unfair, given similar legislative support shown by other publishers. Some even go so far as to say that Elsevier’s “Big Deal” journal pricing practices are beneficial to libraries, small journals, and societies alike.

Riding the wave of awareness created by the Cost of Knowledge petition, a campaign called “#OAMonday” began on Twitter on May 21. #OAMonday (led by SPARC, Access2Research, and a variety of prominent figures in the OA movement) has drummed up an impressive amount of support in a short amount of time for a White House petition that asks President Obama to implement an access policy, similar to the Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health, for all federally funded research. (Pro-Open Access bills such as FRPAA have historically had a hard time making it through Congress; this petition seems to be a way around that. ) As of this posting, the petition is almost at the 22,000 mark.

Even if the petition does reach its goal by the June 19th deadline, it’s hard to say what the outcome will be. We already know that the Obama administration supports Open Access to federally funded research. The “We the People” petitions’ only promise is: “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

Whatever the result, one thing is for sure: this is an exciting time to be a researcher, librarian, or advocate interested in Open Access.

Further reading

Arnold, DN & Cohn, H. (2012). Mathematicians take a stand. Arxiv.org. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.1351

Bambauer, D. (28 May 2012). Support Open Access to Government-Funded Science. Info/Law. Retrieved from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw/2012/05/28/support-open-access-to-government-funded-science/

Jha, A. (9 April 2012). Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/09/frustrated-blogpost-boycott-scientific-journals

(#17) Google Scholar Metrics: A New Resource for Authors (and Librarians?)

Google Scholar quietly launched a new service, Google Scholar Metrics, earlier this month. Google Scholar Metrics allows users to browse a ranked list of publications in a variety of disciplines, sorted according to their h-indices.

Google Scholar envisions that authors will use the service to “consider where to publish their latest article,” and also discover resources outside of their primary field of study. (As interdisciplinary research continues to grow, the latter functionality will likely become increasingly valuable.) Resources are also categorized by language, and journals may also be searched for using non-English terms (e.g. “salud”)—albeit on a limited basis.

Since the service launched, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Google Scholar Metrics can do for librarians. The first—and most obvious—possibility is that subject librarians can use it in a way similar to authors, in order to become familiar with new resources outside of their primary area of focus. They also might use it to supplement their calculation of the potential value of new journals (and not to mention that of traditional resources), before making purchasing decisions.

Collection development and scholarly communication librarians might be able to use the service to garner support for creating or increasing the budget for their institution’s Open Access publishing fund or institutional repository. Open Access journals, such as those in the PLoS* family, are relatively well-represented in this list. And as you can see in the below screencap (Top English Language Publications), OA repositories (red arrows) rank higher than some traditional heavyweights (blue arrows) such as the Lancet, Cell, and PNAS.

 Image: Screenshot of Google Scholar metrics

What uses do you envision for Google Scholar Metrics in the realm of libraries?

Further reading:

Google starts ranking journals,” Significance Magazine

The next revolution in Science: Open Access will open new ways to measure scientific output,” Open Knowledge Foundation – @ccess

* Full disclosure: I was formerly employed by PLoS and continue to be a staunch supporter of this wonderful non-profit.

(#9) Re-blog from The Scholarly Kitchen: The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data

I call your attention to this post by The Scholarly Kitchen – the blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing: The White House Calls for Information on Public Access to Publications and Data.

It is a good distillation of the issues and questions being raised by the federal government as they grapple with how to provide open access to certain types of content, namely: “…public access to journal articles from federally-funded research, and the tricky question of how to make the most of the raw data collected in those federally-funded experiments.”

Certainly, if you care to give your thoughts, I urge you to do so.  Please see the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Request for Information.

Specifically, you can read, in the Federal Register, the RFI on public access here (comments due Jan. 2, 2012) and the RFI on digital data here (comments due Jan. 12, 2012).

(#4) Student Statement on The Right to Research

The Student Statement on the Right to Research is a worthwhile read, whether you’re a student or not.  It is a statement from the Right to Research Coalition and it outlines the essential problem that those who need access to information – students, researchers, doctors, patients, entrepreneurs, the public, people in developing countries, and publishers – are often denied access because information lives behind closed doors and requires an outlay of money for the privilege to read, study and use information.

What?  This is crazy!  But it’s true and real opportunities to further ones studies and make valuable contributions to society are stifled.

Read about the problem and solutions at the Right to Research Coalition website. Engage in conversations with your peers, your professors and your librarians. Join the conversation.  We welcome your attention.

IUScholarWorks is a program that endeavors to alleviate these problems by offering alternative publishing solutions to IU Researchers.  Check out our Repository and the Journals we host.

(#3) Access to research and the role of libraries

Kevin Smith, author of the Scholarly Communications @ Duke blog (definitely check that one out!), recently pointed to a video that beautifully sums up the importance of capturing research for the public good, and the central role that libraries play in that mission.  As Smith says,

“In her four-minute speech Commissioner Kroes does two important things.  First, she succinctly states the case for public access to government-funded research, including the data that underlies research.  She provides a sterling example of a politician (she was in both the Dutch Parliament and its cabinet) who really understands the needs and difficulties of scholarly research, as well as the opportunities provided by the digital environment.  The second important part of Commissioner Kroes’ speech is her announcement that the European Commission will expand its public access mandate for funded research to include all research supported by the EC.  Time for the U.S. to follow suit, if we do not want to lose ground in innovation and economic development”

I was struck by the Commissioner’s support for libraries as a central partner in this endeavor.  Check out this video!